College Board provides various prompts for the personal statement essay, but students are encouraged to find their own creative method of communicating something about themselves.
College Board provides various prompts for the personal statement essay, but students are encouraged to find their own creative method of communicating something about themselves.
Photo Credit: Olivia Payne/Canva/Achona Online

Class of 2024 shares their college essays

One of the trickiest and lengthiest processes of college applications is the personal statement essay. It’s a 650-word statement meant to communicate something about the applicant. Each year, seniors find creative ways to show a part of themselves to admissions officers. The Class of 2024 had many unique essays, and a few of the seniors with some of the most memorable statements were willing to share their pieces to inspire future writers.  


Untitled by Liv Schipano 

Hazel eyes, wavy blonde hair, thousands of freckles, and big lips. This is what I see when I look in the mirror— a reflection I only recognize half of. I look like a man whose name I’ve had to whisper all my life in fear of the disturbance it would bring upon the people I love most. I look like a man I know nothing about; a man that made me question who I was for seventeen years. I don’t look like the man who wanted me, like my “real” dad, but I wish I did.

I was born Olivia Ryan Webb; a girl who died with the memory of her biological father at the age of three. I like to pretend she never even existed; perhaps it’s because I can’t imagine who that little girl would have become without her dad. After Ryan left, I became Olivia Ryan Schipano, a little girl scraping by with her, now single, 21-year-old mother. For a while it was just us riding around blasting various punk rock bands in her beat up car, getting tan at the beach, wandering around Disney World and shouting at hockey games. Eventually, someone else started joining us. Some guy was taking all my mom’s attention away from me. In true, forthright Olivia fashion, I asked the attention-thief a bold question: “So can I call you dad now?”. To my mom’s surprise, he said yes. And to my surprise, he never left.

Most kids grow up looking through scrapbooks filled with pictures of their parents at an elaborate wedding with old college friends they reminisce about. In my house, I was in the scrapbooks. I knew all their friends. I witnessed my parents’ relationship first hand. I watched as they fell in love. I attended class with them. Their wedding even had the most adorable flower girl in the world (me, of course). I watched as my dad, Chris Kasak, moved home from college and put aside his ambitions of becoming the next Scorsese so he could provide for the stubborn 23-year-old with a snarky toddler. I watched as his usual blockbuster movie shirts and baggy jeans turned into sports coats and dress pants. I watched him settle down and become the father I needed— the father Olivia Ryan Webb was not born with.

My dad made two vows on his wedding day: the obvious one, and the one to be my father. Always. Subsequently, I made a vow to myself and only now, while sitting down to write this essay, have I realized that my most defining personality traits and values were subconsciously inspired by him. I vowed to be adaptable. I would become whatever one of my friends or family members needed me to be; a stress reliever, a moderator, a motivator, a shoulder to cry on, a comedian, you-name-it. I also vowed to be loyal. I would never just leave someone, in spite of my own dreams, despite outgrowing people. I refuse to be the reason someone questions why they aren’t good enough, something Olivia Ryan Schipano asked about too much.

I’ve spent the last 17 years figuring out who I am, and ironically enough, now that I know I want to confuse myself again. I want to move far away from home and challenge myself more than ever before. I want to be presented with opportunities that allow me to push myself into becoming an even better person. I want to utilize every quality Chris Kasak ingrained in me as I start my next chapter. As I enter my new life, I want to transform into Olivia Ryan Kasak, a loyal, kind, and hardworking student with a drive to succeed, just like my dad. And as I head off to college, I hope he knows that this is not a goodbye. I hope he knows that I would never leave.


One Day At a Time by Chloe Boback 

Day 6: 

Labored breaths echoed through my pounding head as I experienced the thinning of the atmosphere. I was in total darkness, except for a trail of headlights ahead of me. Straight up. My exhausted and nauseous body shivered from the cold, 40-mph winds fighting against me. My whole body felt like it was shutting down, except my nose, which wouldn’t stop running. I tried to sip my water, but it had frozen. This all-nighter was far different than ones I spent stressfully studying for an exam or giggling at sleepovers. This was the most challenging nine straight hours of my life. One foot in front of the other, I trekked up the steep moonscape thousands of feet above the clouds. Slowly, I became within reach of the summit of the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro. The feeling of reaching the summit became indescribable. All the pain, starvation, lack of sleep, and migraines instantly became worth it. 

Day 5:

Today was challenging; I trailed behind my group. I’m humbled by the magnitude of the vast land surrounding me and the peak of the mountain above me. I’m feeling insignificant but also inextricably linked to the nature around me. The earth is vast and powerful, and I, while small, am a part of it.

Day 4:

I felt better today. It was fun, climbing on my hands and knees like a monkey. I’m wearing my fatigued eyes, dirty cuticles, and tangled hair like a badge of honor. Despite the exhaustion, I am grateful that I have come this far. 

Day 3:

Today was miserable. I had never felt worse in my life. The trail was never-ending, flat but straight uphill and extremely dusty. My hips are bruised from sleeping on the ground, and my body is begging me to go down.

Day 2: 

This morning, I looked up and I saw a rocky, steep path. I was suddenly reminded of the weight of the backpack I had on my back. I played music to drown out the voices in my head questioning whether this was a good idea.

Day 1:

I was eager to step out of my comfort zone. The aches of my feet inside my dirt-encrusted hiking boots were growing stronger, however, and getting harder to ignore. Getting to the camp and remembering that I can’t shower, use a toilet, or sleep in a bed was eye-opening, but it can’t be that bad!

Day 7:

It wasn’t reaching the peak that taught me the most essential lessons; it was the voyage to the top. Being stripped of my modern conveniences and daily comforts made me realize that I do not need the luxuries of everyday life, and can instead find the simple pleasures that surround me. I am so much more capable, physically and mentally than I thought a mere seven days ago. The cover of this journal reads, “One Day at a Time”. The state of my body and mind felt different each day throughout this experience and taking it step-by-step was crucial to reaching the summit. I can always handle what is in front of me in the present moment. Whether that be the next step up the mountain, the next page of a textbook for school, or the next step in an oatmeal cookie recipe. Step by step, day by day, I know I can reach any goal I set my mind to. These past seven days will stick with me forever. It has taught me something I can only learn through experience. It has ignited a flame within me to keep hiking towards my limitless human potential and to keep reaching all the other literal and figurative summits in my future.


In the Morning Light by Sabrina Grayson 

In the morning light, the view from the third-floor commons overlooks the most beautiful stretch of Bayshore Boulevard. You can see Tampa Bay, the rolling waves, the swaying palm trees, and the enchanting skyline. It’s quiet, peaceful, and tastefully decorated with modern study booths and sofas. Even though the building is over one hundred years old, the floor sparkles, the marble glistens, and the statue of Jesus humbles anyone who walks through the large oak doors. My Mass uniform is perfectly pressed: navy skirt, white shirt, and a pale-yellow cardigan. My penny loafers shine, my hair is tied back in a neat ponytail, and I blend into a sea of other Academy girls. Nevertheless…

In the morning light, we stood dismayed in the parking lot. Where do we go? What do we do? “I love you” and that means more than anything. God sends angels in our most desperate times of need, and we, fortunately, found ourselves in an empty foreclosed home with electricity, water, and each other. Keeping a low profile so the neighbors wouldn’t notice us wasn’t as hard as you would think. No one knocked, no one wondered why a light was on or off, and we safely slept on the floor. Maybe it was good not to have the lights on; memories become easier to erase in the dark. But there was love, more love than could ever be contained within the walls of our refuge.

Don’t worry that I was homeless, don’t worry that I ate more canned ravioli meals than the average kid, don’t worry for me. It takes strength and courage to look back at those times, but while they were fresh and vivid, they were among the happiest of my life. I had everything I needed: silence, hugs, smiles, laughter, and peace. A home is not made of wood and brick, it’s the people who you love and who believe in you. To me, a home is a place in your heart, not where you park your luxury car or your designer clothes. Home, home is more.

Same view, same Mass uniform, different day. Bayshore is still beautiful, with its swaying palms. It is hot and the sun radiates from the facade of my private school. My uniform was earned, not given. My penny loafers have walked a path that most of my classmates couldn’t even begin to fathom. I learned to camouflage my financial battles at school and covertly use them as motivation for all that I involved myself in. While I may not be in the same boat or experienced some of the same privileges as my peers growing up, it never affected how I was seen at Academy. And for that, I am filled with gratitude. My Caribbean skin blends into the crowd and my smile is ever-present. I was not marked then or even now by the challenges life gives me; I am defined only by the aspects I decide to assign. I chose. I am resilient beyond measure. Utterly determined to spread kindness. Heavily motivated to move mountains and to greatly impact this world. And, tied with a contagious laugh that brings all types together. I am Sabrina Grayson, I was homeless, and now I am not.

In the morning light, I have my family, my Academy sisters, and I have me.


Whispering Stones by Danica Lothrop 

Rocks. Scattered across thousands and thousands of landscapes, holding personal memories only so little know about. Some hold a memory of mine so small and innocent ultimately shaping my entire existence.

I’m riding my glittery pink bike around the neighborhood at just shy of 6 years old. I see a pretty rock and seemingly place it in my basket. Suddenly, my basket is full and falling off the handles from the weight. That bike was replaced and collected dust in the garage and at last, sold in a garage sale. I panicked because within was my glitter basket with MY rocks. I had tears welled up, begging my parents to get them back. Growing up, I continued to walk along sun-kissed sidewalks being drawn magnetically to pretty stones.

As I packed up my belongings and moved from state to state, the collection stayed with me and continued to grow. Once just a blameless action, turned into a guilty pleasure. I had a specific rock to every special place in my heart but too scared to share the importance of them with anyone. Each rock represents a memory, a chapter in the story of my life, and I guarded them, afraid sharing their significance would somehow diminish their importance. They became silent witnesses to my journey, a reminder of the places I had been and the person I had become. It was as if the stones themselves held a piece of my soul, a past connection that couldn’t quite be expressed in words.

Of the infinite rocks in the world, the mere handful in my collection means the world to me. Some are river-worn pebbles polished by the flow of water. They are fragments, broken off from their original form, reminding me of the struggles and challenges I had faced. Each edge and rough surface shows imperfections and sometimes life just isn’t fair. They were whole, but through time, became fractured and worn down. Yet, they still show their beauty and uniqueness, like the scars that mark stories on your skin. Some rocks went through constant wear and tear, like the challenges that chipped away parts of my confidence. They remind me life’s struggles don’t define us. Instead, they shape us into something unique.

Others are vibrant, colorful stones that radiate energy and life, mirroring the moments of joy and happiness I had experienced. They carry reminders of shared laughter, dreams pursued, and friends I made along the way. They fill me with gratitude for the kaleidoscope of experiences that shape my journey. One particularly sticks out to me, shaped like a heart, but broken into 3 rough pieces. It is broken down into fragments, or moments of life fitting perfectly together as MY life.

The shells found on a deserted beach brought back memories of seaside adventures. The blue waves crashing against the shore, carrying away worries and living in a carefree world. The pebble picked up during a family camping trip triggered nostalgic nights under the stars. It’s a dark gray color, with a hint of shimmer when caught in just the right amount of sunlight. As darkness surrounded the campsite, I sat by the fire listening to the crackling sounds of wood and wind through the trees. The flames danced in rhythm with my wondering thoughts, creating a night now engraved in the back of my mind. The pebble symbolized the simplicity and joy of mother nature, away from the constant routine of everyday life. It guards the memory of laughter, storytelling, and the importance of cherished moments with loved ones. These rocks are guardians of memories I may have forgotten about; nights that mold my existence in this lifetime.

So, I continue to walk along sun-kissed sidewalks, scanning the ground for the next addition to my collection. With each new rock I find, I am reminded of the beauty that can emerge in the most unlikely places.


A Storybook Brain by Kathryn Burke 

Throughout my life, I sensed an unshakable void. Growing up in Florida with limited knowledge of my parent’s Canadian culture or having two siblings that I never knew as my mom experienced the anguish of two miscarriages, it was something I just could not quite pinpoint. I had many questions. My parents often described me as the most inquisitive child. 

I was fourteen years old and it was at the peak of Covid. My mom took advantage of the downtime and tasked us with a list of household chores as she always wanted everything to be ‘spic and span’. I was assigned the photo drawer. I think it was a ploy to get me excited about organizing since she was quite aware of my love for photography. This one particular photo caught my attention. My mom was very pregnant with me and the photo was dated halfway through her pregnancy. She was a very petite lady and the size of her stomach did not appear to match the timing of her pregnancy. Before I had a chance to question it, I noticed an ultrasound image attached to the back of the photo with the same date. The image of two fetuses piqued my curiosity. I immediately ran to question my parents. They told me that my twin brother died just days before our due date. It was devastating news, a plot twist that I never anticipated. It may have even contributed to that void I was feeling.

As an intern at Morton Plant Hospital, I spent several hours filing papers. On one occasion I came across my own birth certificate and behind it was my brother’s, Jeremiah Matthew Burke. However, I could not find a death certificate. I brought this to the attention of my supervisor and she vividly remembered the details of the investigation. She explained that he was taken from the nursery and after several years my parents had accepted the loss. I took the matter into my own hands and hired a private investigator. I was determined to find him. What I found was not what I had expected, not what anyone expected.

I hope that was entertaining since that was just a story I made up. I have a gift for storytelling and I feel as though it flows effortlessly through me. I prefer it to writing because I enjoy the instant feedback from people’s reactions and witnessing the emotional connection that the listeners have to the story. I have also used it as a way of escaping my own reality and envisioning what my life would be like if I had written my own story. This talent gives me a special connection with children as they become entranced by the intricate details of my stories. I bring stories to life in a way that makes them sound so realistic. In essence, my passion for storytelling lies in my ability to inspire, connect, and, most importantly, make a positive difference in the lives of others.

  During my junior year, the narrative of my own life rivaled any of the top stories in the Kathryn Burke Story Library. While most of the plot twists seemed destined for an undesirable conclusion, I was determined to find the Hallmark ending. Facing physical challenges such as broken bones, torn ligaments, concussions, dealing with the aftermath of a car accident, along with the emotional stress of missing dance competitions, compelled me to craft imaginative tales to navigate these difficult times. Entering my senior year with these events in my rearview mirror, I was left with hope and determination for the gratifying closing of my high school journey. My philosophy remains steadfast: I would rather tell stories, the kind that draws a smile on my face instead of a frown because I do not want any wrinkles.

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  • Oprah kulekeApr 5, 2024 at 6:11 pm

    The stories are incredible, easy to understand, easy to interprete and aesthetic 👌.